While many players have opted to reside in Dubai, be it for tax reasons or to make use of the good weather and practice facilities, Fernando Verdasco has chosen Doha as his new residence, where he believes many opportunities are available to him, including ones for his post-tennis career.
The Spaniard, who reached his first quarter-final in five appearances at the Qatar Open thanks to a straight-sets win over David Goffin on Wednesday, has been spending a lot of time in Doha and is pleased to be a resident of the Gulf state.
“It was because (there are) many opportunities for me here, not even now as a tennis player, also in the future,” Verdasco told Sport360 on why he chose the Qatari capital to be his second home.
“Everybody I know here, they treat me unbelievable for many years already and I’m very happy to have the friends I have here. I enjoy it so much, they treat me as a Qatari. I’m looking forward to spending a lot of time here.
Verdasco, a former No7 who is now down to No42 in the world, had a 0-4 record in Qatar Open second rounds prior to his 6-1, 7-6 (6) upset victory over the fourth-seeded Goffin on Wednesday.
“Every time I came here I enjoyed it so much. First time was my second year as a pro, in 2005, and I lost in the second round, then against Nadal. This is the third time in a row coming, two years ago I lost to Ferrer, last year I lost to Djokovic and this year I had Goffin in the second round and I’ve been finally able to reach the quarter-finals,” said the 33-year-old Verdasco.
“I enjoy always my time in Doha, I have many friends here. Of course now spending much more time than before. I love it because it’s a really calm city, the weather is always nice, sometimes very hot in the summer, but I like the heat.
“I came here in July, September, October, November… so almost every month. It’s really a relaxing time for me here in between tournaments and when it’s not too hot it’s nice to practice also. Sometimes it’s too windy but it’s also good to get used to it.”
Does his move to Doha signal perhaps he is already planning for his post-tennis future?
“Maybe, you never know. For the moment I don’t know how many years I will be playing, hopefully a lot because I enjoy it a lot, but why not? It’s an opportunity and it’s a chance for me to have… here you have beIN Sports, you have tennis academies, you have many things that could work for me after tennis,” admits the Madrileño, who has been actively promoting the city through several posts on social media.
Goffin became the highest-ranked casualty of the tournament as he succumbed to a bout of the flu and Verdasco’s aggressive game.
Verdasco had failed to serve out the match twice and squandered five match points before he finally overcame the Belgian world No11.
The Spaniard grabbed the first set in 29 minutes and when he broke midway through the second, it looked like he was on his way to a routine win.
An inch-perfect lob gave Verdasco a first match point but an aggressive Goffin rushed the net to save it.
Serving for the match, Verdasco fell behind 15-40 and Goffin broke with a forehand winner that painted the line and saw him draw level at 5-5.
The Spaniard regained his advantage immediately though, breaking Goffin with a forehand passing shot to once again get into the position to serve for the victory at 6-5.
But Goffin had other ideas, saving a second match point before breaking serve on his fourth chance of the game to force a tiebreak.
A forehand error from Goffin saw Verdasco lead 4-2 in the breaker. Two more match points escaped Verdasco but he finally closed out the clash on his sixth opportunity when Goffin sent a backhand long.
“It was not easy today, it was tough to breathe, I didn’t have a lot of energy tonight. It was not easy for me to breathe but in the end I fought in the second set and even if I had the flu, I think I had to take this second set and maybe in the third set it would have been much better. At the end, I had a lot of opportunities in the second set and I had to take them,” said a disappointed Goffin, who looked flat and out of sorts – a stark contrast to the energetic, explosive Belgian who reached the Abu Dhabi final last Saturday, beating Andy Murray en route.
“He played really well, it was tough to make a winner here in the slow conditions so he was quite solid, he has a lot of power in his forehand and his serve, it was not easy to counter him.”
The temperature had dropped significantly in Doha on Wednesday which made for slower conditions.
“It was already slow two days ago and today it was much slower because of the lower temperatures and with the wind it was not easy, it was from the side. It wasn’t easy conditions. Of course it’s a pity to lose this one, but next time,” added Goffin.
The 26-year-old was making his Doha debut and next heads to Melbourne where he’ll take part in an exhibition in Kooyong before the Australian Open.
Asked if he would reconsider starting the season in Doha next season and prefer to go elsewhere, Goffin said: “It’s a really nice tournament, it’s perfect. I think it’s very different if you compare it to the conditions in Australia. In Australia it’s hot, and the ball, is not flying, but the conditions are faster than here, so it’s quite different.
“So we’ll see. I like this tournament, it was nice to be here but we’ll see now the transition between Doha and Melbourne. If I can play good tennis there, then why not come back here?”
On his part, Verdasco, who faces Ivo Karlovic in the quarter-finals on Thursday, was pleased with his own resilience.
“It was tough, but I kept trying and I kept fighting and I finally did it. It was important to finish in two sets because if not then third set we would be starting from zero and everything could change,” he said.
For someone who was ranked in the top-10 and has reached a grand slam semi-final (Australian Open 2009), it must be hard adapting to life outside the top-40.
Asked how he plans on making his way back up the rankings, Verdasco said: “It’s not easy, when you lose your ranking, it’s not easy to come back because you have the top players in the first and second rounds so it’s tough to pass that and to get more points.
“But you know, at the end the key is to keep fighting, even if you fall, just try to get up as soon possible, keep working hard, practicing hard, and trying your best in competitions.
“Sometimes things don’t come the way you want, sometimes you have to fight so hard, as I did for example today in the second, and at the end, these are the kind of matches that help you to get the confidence, get the rhythm and to be able to get back with a better ranking.”